3 men convicted
in beach assault

The victim says he wanted
to help a dog and did not want
to antagonize anyone

Edward "Steve" Van Lier Ribbink says, "I don't know how I couldn't" try to save a dog even at the risk of his own safety.

Van Lier Ribbink said he could not stand by when he saw Manuel Kupahu Jr. punching a dog and attempting to drown it in waters off Waimanalo Beach Park last March.

"I didn't want to antagonize anybody. I just wanted to help that dog," said Van Lier Ribbink, a self-proclaimed dog lover.

A Circuit Court jury convicted Kupahu, 53, yesterday of cruelty to animals and first-degree assault for beating Van Lier Ribbink, who had tried to stop Kupahu from beating a dog.

The jury also convicted Kupahu's 28-year-old son, Robert K. Kupahu, of first-degree assault for punching and kicking Van Lier Ribbink, causing substantial bodily injury, and nephew Guy Meyers, 40, of attempted first-degree assault.

Manuel Kupahu, a pig hunter who uses dogs to hunt, did not dispute he "whacked" his dog to discipline it, but denies he did so with a closed fist. He also denied drowning the dog, saying he "dunked" it into the water because it was not listening and to cool it off after it had run off and chased after another dog on the beach. The dog died.

Van Lier Ribbink said he approached Kupahu with trepidation and tried to talk to him calmly, asking him to stop beating the dog and offering to take it off his hands. But Kupahu's anger turned to him, and they ended up scuffling on the sand.

Deputy Prosecutor Dan Oyasato argued that Kupahu sent an acquaintance to fetch his son and also told Meyers about the scuffle, and they planned to teach Van Lier Ribbink a lesson.

A witness testified that Robert Kupahu came down to the beach and asked her, "Where's that f--ing haole?" and that "a f--ing haole is gonna die on the beach today."

Manuel Kupahu admitted to police that he, his son and at least two others returned to the beach, and "we went take care of business."

When asked what they did when they caught up to Van Lier Ribbink, Kupahu replied, "Whack 'em."

Kupahu testified he never laid a hand on Van Lier Ribbink, but admitted he urged his son to "go ahead, go ahead."

Robert Kupahu and Meyers denied causing Van Lier Ribbink serious bodily injury.

"It was a horrific event to witness and experience," Van Lier Ribbink said yesterday.

He escaped with eight broken ribs and cuts over his right eye that required eight stitches.

"I'm very gratified and pleased justice was served today, he said."

Van Lier Ribbink has since recovered from his injuries and returned to Waimanalo Beach since the assault. His family goes to Waimanalo three or four times a year, mostly for canoe races, he said.

Jeffrey Hawk, Kupahu Jr.'s attorney, commended jurors who deliberated for nearly three days for their hard work, but said they reached the wrong verdict.

"But we had our day in court, and we're happy with that," Hawk said.

The three face a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment on the assault charge when sentenced May 12. The elder Kupahu, who has no prior convictions, is eligible for probation.

Robert Kupahu, who is facing sentencing on an unrelated federal drug charge, and Meyers, who was released from Halawa Prison a day before the assault on Van Lier Ribbink, were returned yesterday to the Oahu Community Correctional Center.

A fourth defendant, Gavin Hano Kalai, pleaded guilty to first-degree assault a week before the others went to trial.


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